If the new Macbook Air 11-inch is good enough for him – well then…
Let me first say that I still rage against Apple’s proprietary BS. I don’t like the idea of not being able to easily remove batteries, upgrade RAM, upgrade hard drives and the rest of it. I had the iPhone 3GS for a couple of months before deciding it was easily and better replaced by the HTC One V which allows me to transfer files at will without going through Apple’s Gatekeeper – iTunes.
I’ve come around. When Apple is the obvious right choice – I have to admit it.
The ultimate writer’s notebook computer is, without a doubt in my mind, the Macbook Air 11-inch, released in 2012.
I’ve stated before, and numerous times, that the primary concern for me as a writer – is keyboard. That is by far the number one variable for me in selecting a computer to write on. I write about a million words each year, I need something that works with me – not against me. I have found very few computers I like to write with over the years.
The HP ProBook 4310s I have had for a couple years now – works well enough. I’m typing this post on it. The keyboard is not awesome, but, at the time and for the money – it’s what was available. This computer is set to die any day now, the humidity of Thailand is surely going to have its way with it soon – like all my electronic gadgets after 2-3 years.
So I got the Lenovo IdeaPad E125. Why? It was less than $500 and the battery life is phenomenal. I get about 7 hours from that sucker, while writing. I could get more, but I crank up the brightness and have WIFI running as I write. It probably does 8-9 hours. The keyboard is sweet, I enjoyed it more than this HP for a while. It is small – 11.6″. The display is OK, nothing great, but clear enough. It’s sharp, I’m just nit picky on displays.
It is fairly lightweight – about 3.7 lbs, if I’m remembering correctly. I’m close anyway.
The keyboard is awesome. I love it, almost without reservations. The keys are spaced exactly the right distance for my fingers. It is a bit cramped, but, for typing fast, nothing beats that layout. Cramped means your fingers need not travel a great distance to reach keys. After a million words, 5,000,000 keystrokes, that counts for a lot.
When you press a key on the new Lenovo chiclet keyboards, you know it. There is a good distance to travel to push it down, and you know when you’ve pushed the key. There is no question. However, the springiness of the keys is a little hard for my taste. Initially I thought I’d get over it. It has been a few months now, and I haven’t got over it. In fact, like today, I usually just resort to using this old HP ProBook to write long articles. The hard-to-press keys of the Lenovo E125 have pushed me away from the thing. Sure, it is NOTHING like pushing the keys of the old IBM Selectric typewriters. Still, I don’t enjoy the experience very much when writing long articles. When writing short blurbs, email, it’s great. I will hold onto the Lenovo E125 as a backup and for quick stuff – but I need something else for writing thousands of words per day.
Enter the Macbook Air 11-inch.
Early on I tested the Airs at the Apple stores in Bangkok, Phuket, and Kuala Lumpur. I liked them, but I wasn’t sold on pushing down on the keys so little. The keyboard on the Macbook Air 11-inch is also just right for my hands. I didn’t measure against the Lenovo E125, but it must be very close. I do prefer the concavity of the Lenovo keyboard, but, apparently I cannot have everything. I have never had everything I want from electronics. I imagine I never will.
I went back to the Apple store in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand and tried the Macbook Air 11 and 13-inch computers to see what I thought. These were the 2012 models. Backlit. Bright screens. Super lightweight.
I loved the 11-inch. The 13-inch seemed a bit too spaced out – the keys, I mean – for my taste. The weight of the 11-inch is like 2 lbs. The battery life – an appalling 5 hours. I noticed the chargers for A/C are heaps lighter than the contraptions necessary for either my Lenovo or HP notebooks. I am guessing the Macbook Air AC adapters are 1/6th the weight of typical PC based machines. That means a lot, because when traveling, you must bring your AC adapter with you. Few people count that in the weight of their machines. I didn’t used to, but after hauling around my mini 11 inch Lenovo at 3.7 lbs and then the 1+ lb adapter, I started to realize – this thing is a PIG. I think I could carry 2 Macbook Airs and 2 adapters to the one Lenovo + adapter. That was a mindblowing realization. I knew then, my search for the ultimate writer’s notebook wasn’t yet complete.
The keyboard on the Macbook Air does not require much key depression to activate a keystroke. Still, the feeling of pressing the keys is nice – it is solid. You know you pressed a key. The keys are not concave… but, good enough. They are backlit – which I like a lot.
You know what finally cinched it for the Macbook Air?
The touchpad on the ProBook is atrocious. To be expected, the technology is about 4 years old.
The touchpad on the Lenovo – is worse than atrocious – it is Neanderthal. It works for absolute shite. I just shut the dumb thing off and use the red nubby thing between my g and h keys, which rather sucks too – but, that’s how I deal with it.
Over the past few months I’ve had my hands on many ultrabooks including the Samsung 9 series, Lenovo u300’s, Toshiba’s best, and the high-rated ASUS ultra. I didn’t like the touchpad on any of them.
The Macbook Air touchpad is the best I’ve used – by FAR.
It is ultra-responsive. It is big enough to be comfortable. The speed of moving the cursor around is good at the fastest setting. Clicking the bottom corners (left and right) – works. You know you clicked and there aren’t any errors. The touchpad is smart enough to know that my heavy palms, resting on part of the touchpad, shouldn’t affect the cursor. It works magically to ignore palm rest. I love that. There’s no way I can figure out to change the settings for my Lenovo – and it drives me to madness.
What is really nice – and what finally just sold the hell out of me after knowing all the other great things about the Air?
The multi-touch gestures on the Macbook Air touchpad allow me to shut applications down easily, tile them, and other convenient stuff. Scrolling works with a couple fingers on the touchpad and sliding up or down. Swipe to Navigate lets me use two fingers sliding left to right or reverse – to scroll through the history of my browser, or to move through applications. Mission Control and Launchpad help me to manage apps quickly.
The touchpad is the game clincher for me. The keyboard is awesome. I found that since I had the negative experience with pushing too hard and too deep on the Lenovo E125 keys, using the Air 11 inch keys felt really good and is my new favorite.
Update 12/2016 – I sold the 11 inch MacBook Air and I bought the MacBook Pro 13″ Retina. The screen difference is “why” I switched. The keyboard on the Pro is also a bit better. The power is better – the processing power, that is. It’s not as light as the Airs – but it’s light enough at 3 lbs.
I think the 13 or 15 inch MacBook Pro Retina is one of the top 5 notebook computers for writers. Really, don’t waste your time looking if you have the money – buy one.
If money is an issue – look at the Lenovo X1 Carbon – it has a phenomenal keyboard and the screen is nice too. Two things writers cannot go without.
If you are in the market for a new notebook computer to write books or articles on, write anything on, consider the Macbook Air 11 or 13-inch.
If your hands are on the bigger side, you might want the 13-inch instead:
Video of Macbook Air in action
Multi-finger Touchpad Gestures:
Related articles about technology for writers:
Thinkpad E125 – the Ultimate Notebook Computer?
Thinkpad X1 – the Ultimate Notebook Computer for Writers
Disclaimer – by clicking on either product link above, I make some absurdly low amount of commission if you buy something. If you found the review useful, use them. If not, open Amazon yourself and go shopping. No worries, I won’t know the damn difference…